LeBron James fails at brand management

Photo courtesy of AP-Wilfredo Lee

Not only did NBA superstar LeBron James lose another Finals series last night, but this time his postgame comments taking aim at his critics most likely shredded what little regard some fans still had for him and may have tarnished his image and brand forever.

After numerous bad decisions including and most prolifically “The Decision,” one would think he would have learned his lesson to be more careful in his comments, especially in the last year he is one of the most scrutinized athletes in sports.  It seems like most members of the media complain that athletes only speak in cliches and never really have anything interesting to say.  There is a reason for this.  If an athlete makes obtuse comments such as LeBron did, fans will be immediately turned off and the already financially strapped NBA could stand to lose even more money than they currently are.

Just a year ago, before his meltdown in the Eastern Conference Finals, he was loved by sports fans all over the world.  Now, people seem to be standing in line to pile on to the guy as one of the most reviled athletes in sports.  Letting down your teammates is one thing, insulting the media and fans is an entirely different situation.  If his remarks basically telling people their lives are pathetic because they don’t have his fame and fortune were genuine or not, it still is a devastating blow to his brand equity.  If you were a company looking for a celebrity athlete to promote your product, would you pick LeBron right now?  I sure wouldn’t.  Obviously he’s not in “Tiger Woods after his sex scandal” territory right now, but with the number of public fumbles this guy has made, he’s getting darn close.

If I were his manager, agent, or advising him on his brand I would tell him to step out of the spotlight and focus on basketball.  The problem with LeBron is, it seems his friends are coaching him and they simply have no clue how to manage a global brand like LeBron James.  He really needs to get a non-biased voice on his payroll to tell the guy what what he NEEDS to hear, which includes things he probably doesn’t want to hear.  That appears to be the only way the guy is going to salvage his brand short of donating the rest of his paychecks to charity.


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